Seizures in Newborns May Indicate Neurological Birth Injury

If your infant has experienced a seizure, you know how frightening the situation can be. But did you know that it could be a sign of neurological birth injury? Seizures occur when nerve cells in the brain fire abnormally due to nerve damage, oxygen deprivation, high fever or issues with brain chemistry. When they occur in newborns as a result of oxygen deprivation, nerve damage or brain chemistry, it may be due to a traumatic birth injury.

Types of Seizures in Newborns

Seizures in newborns are categorized as subtle, clonic, tonic or myoclonic:

  • Subtle seizures, as the name implies, are often difficult to see. They occur most frequently in premature infants and are the most frequent type of seizure (comprising about 50% of all newborn seizures). There may be some bicycling-type movement, fixation of gaze or repetitive facial movements.
  • Clonic seizures in infants are marked by a slow rhythmic jerk of one part of the body. This type of seizure represents about 25% of all seizures in newborns.
  • Myoclonic seizures involve rapid twitching or jerking movements and are the most serious often indicating severe brain damage. Premature babies are the most afflicted group.
  • Tonic seizures account for about 5% of infants with seizures and cause sustained contractions. Sometimes the eyes may roll upward and breathing may stop for a period of time.

Incidence and Causes of Seizures in Newborns

Neonatal seizures within the first few days of birth occur in about 20 to 35 cases per 10,000 births. The most common cause is Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) or birth asphyxia. This is a medical condition where a newborn has been deprived of oxygen at or around the time of birth. It is estimated that as many as 80% of neonatal seizures are due to HIE. Cord compression; problems with the placenta or uterus such as a

There is a multitude of medical emergencies that can contribute to HIE and seizures. These emergencies include:

  • Cord compression
  • Problems with the placenta or uterus (such as a ruptured uterus or placenta previa)
  • Fetal distress
  • Trauma to the baby’s brain during delivery
  • Delayed delivery

Medical staff must plan appropriately for these kinds of obstetrical risks. Furthermore, they must effectively handle situations that may arise during delivery in order to minimize the possibility of HIE. This includes:

  • Appropriate prenatal care
    • This includes assessment of risk factors such as macrosomic (large) baby, cephalopelvic disproportion (baby too large for mother’s pelvis), preeclampsia (mother’s elevated blood pressure), and infection.
  • Diagnosis and treatment of preterm labor
  • Effective management of labor and delivery
  • Appropriate response to non-reassuring fetal heart tones and distress during labor and delivery

Failure by doctors or other health care professionals to do these things could be considered negligence.


Newborns that experience seizure due to brain injuries often have other problems like cerebral palsy, intellectual impairments, and other neurological issues. If your child has a seizure disorder – with or without other neurological problems – a review of medical records can determine whether negligence played a role in causing your child’s seizures. The birth injury attorneys at  Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers can help. We have the knowledge and professional experience to thoroughly examine the complex medical records of your child’s case, determine whether there was an error or negligence, and help you obtain the monetary compensation your child deserves. Contact the Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers in Detroit, Michigan today.

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